Coca-Cola has announced that it is halting production in Venezuela, as the country cannot provide enough sugar one of the essential ingredients for manufacture , according to media reports.
The move comes as Venezuela’s economy is on the edge of collapse with widespread food shortages, looting and riots, and inflation forecast to surpass 700 per cent.
And the world’s largest bottler of Coca-Cola, Mexico-based Coca-Cola FEMSA, announced on Friday that it was halting production of its most famous drink.
Fruit juices and water will continue to be produced by the firm’s 7,300 employees, in four bottling plants and 33 distribution centres. Imported Coca-Cola will still be available, but perhaps at a price inaccessible to ordinary Venezuelans. Latin America is the world’s largest market for Coca-Cola, with 29 per cent of the company’s 1.9 billion cans a day consumed in the region.
But the announcement marks another serious blow to Venezuela’s crippled food sector.
President Nicolas Maduro, struggling to keep the country afloat, has blamed the crisis on low water levels in Venezuela’s biggest hydroelectric dam, which have caused widespread power cuts, killing babies inside devastated hospitals.
People queue to try to buy basic food items outside a supermarket in Caracas
People queue to try to buy basic food items outside a supermarket in Caracas Credit: CARLOS He also blames the implosion of the country with the world’s largest oil reserves on “economic war” waged by the US. A 60-day state of emergency was declared last week, amid growing opposition protests, and on Friday Mr Maduro announced the country’s biggest ever military manoeuvers, apparently designed to put on a show to the US and deter “foreign invaders.”
Meanwhile, queues for food and basic household items like toilet paper last for many hours, and violence from mobs across the country grows.
Last month beer production was stopped by Polar, Venezuela’s largest food and beverage company – and biggest private company overall – because of a lack of barley.
Coca-Cola operates with a worldwide chain of bottling plants which buy concentrates, beverage bases and syrups from the US-based headquarters, and are then responsible for the local manufacture, packaging, merchandising and distribution.
Kerry Tressler, spokesman for Coca-Cola, told The Telegraph that local sugar suppliers in Venezuela informed the company that they will temporarily cease operations due to a lack of raw materials.